Researcher Profiles

WMed leads a diverse team of academic and community-based researchers working together to identify gaps, inform strategy, and measure the impact of Cradle Kalamazoo’s activities and services. The Cradle Research and Data Team is intentional about coordinating Cradle-related research, evaluation, and quality improvement projects. 

This working group is open to anyone who wants to hear, help, or lead studies. For more information, please contact pophealthresearch@med.wmich.edu.

Cradle Kalamazoo Research and Data Team and Projects

  • Team Leader: Kothari, Catherine, PhD (WMed)

    Dr. Catherine Kothari, PhD is the Chair & Senior Epidemiologist of this research and data team and an Associate Professor in Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Biomedical Sciences Department at WMed. Dr. Kothari’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of population health and program evaluation focusing upon social determinants of health, health services and health outcomes for topics spanning: racial disparities, socioeconomic disparities, intimate partner violence, criminal justice involvement, and mental health.

    Lead Research Projects

    Cradle-Kalamazoo Data Hub: Care Coordination Registry (WMed IRB #2016-0123) 

    Dr. Kothari’s project, Cradle-Kalamazoo Data Hub: Care Coordination Registry provides data necessary for coordinated case reviews and for system quality improvement metrics. The goal of this project is to produce program and system-level quality improvement metrics that document how well the perinatal care coordination processes (referral, contact, enrollment, discharge for perinatal women and their infants) are functioning, and their associated health outcomes (e.g. prenatal care, gestation, infant birth weight) stratified by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity and prior birth outcomes. 

    Community Voice Panel (WMed IRB #2019-0460) 

    Dr. Kothari’s project, Community Voice Panel, is a standing group of parents and caregivers that are paid for their expertise regarding perinatal services and agencies. The goal of the project is to serve as a platform for community input, especially from marginalized populations, regarding the system of perinatal/infant care in Kalamazoo County.  

    Kalamazoo County Fetal Infant Mortality Review (FIMR)  

    Dr. Kothari, co-led with Deb Lenz, MA, Deputy Health Officer at Kalamazoo County Government, is leading the Kalamazoo County FIMR. The Kalamazoo County FIMR is a community-level, interdisciplinary continuous quality improvement (CQI) process for identifying root causes and preventing future deaths. The findings from this project support public health surveillance of infant death including racial disparities and risk/protective factors in infant mortality in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

    Mom’s Health Experiences Survey Study (WMed IRB #2016-0127) 

    Dr. Kothari’s project, Mom’s Health Experience Survey, is an observational prospective study of postpartum women, with mixed methods data collection, combining telephone surveys and administrative record review. The goal of the project is to document the issues that Kalamazoo County pregnant and infant-parenting families face (e.g. mental health, housing, safety, quality childcare, etc.); how they are treated within their community and by healthcare providers (e.g. empowerment, communication, discrimination); how this affects them (e.g. stress, health behaviors like smoking, healthcare usage); and ultimately, the health of their newborn. 

    Using Public Health Data to Examine Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI (WMed IRB #2017-0179) 

    Dr. Kothari’s project, Using Public Health Data to Examine Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI, is examining whether variations in infant health by race and by income are associated with different sets of predictors, including: maternal demographics; health behaviors; obstetric history; maternal health condition; and prenatal care. This project is a population-based cross-sectional study using secondary analysis of infant birth and death records. The project findings will be provided to Kalamazoo Healthy Babies Healthy Start as evaluation reports and will be disseminated via community meetings, conferences and publication(s) in peer-reviewed journals to the broader community.

  • Team Coordinator: Presberry, Joi, MPH (WMed)

    Joi Presberry is a Population Health Research Coordinator in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. She received her Master’s in Public Health from Michigan State University. Joi’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of racial equity among maternal- infant populations and the systems that serve them.

  • Baker, Kathleen, PhD, MA (WMU)

    Kathleen Baker, PhD, MA is a Professor of Geography at the Western Michigan University and the Director of the W.E. Upjohn Center and HDREAM Center. She received her PhD in Geography from Michigan State University and her MA in Geography from Western Michigan University. Dr. Baker’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of geographic information science, physical geography, and biogeography and agriculture.

    Lead Research Projects

    Dr. Baker’s current project is in collaboration with Dr. Cathy Kothari of Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine and the Using Public Health Data to Examine Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI research project funded by Healthy Babies Healthy Start. This project will assist in the design and evaluation of a spatial analysis of neighborhoods receiving home visitation services. The goals of the project include assessing strengths and gaps of programming and mapping outcomes. The findings will be provided to Kalamazoo Healthy Babies Healthy Start as evaluation reports and will be disseminated via community meetings, conferences and publication(s) in peer-reviewed journals to the broader community.

  • Bauler, Laura, PhD (WMed)

    Dr. Laura Bauler is an Assistant Professor and scientific and medical editor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. She received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Bauler’s research explores the pathogenesis of intracellular pathogens and the health impact of sexual transmitted infections. Her current research focuses on the impact of sexually transmitted infections on birth outcomes and perception of barriers to contraception by patients and providers.

    Lead Research Projects 

    Health Burden of Chlamydia Linked to Risk Exposure Rather than Risk Response Among African Americans in a High Infant Mortality Community - Using Public Health Data to Examine Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI (WMed IRB #2017-0179) 

    Dr. Bauler is collaborating with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine to examine if increased Chlamydia prevalence in the African American population impacts poor birth outcome risk compared to Caucasian woman based on the results of the secondary analysis of infant birth and death records. The findings show that despite the higher prevalence of Chlamydia infection in the African American community, infection poses a similar risk to both populations. The findings from this project will help support the understanding of both the degree that various risk factors contribute to poor birth outcomes and the existence of local sexually transmitted infection disparities; providing direction for the local healthcare systems and community to intervene in an impactful manner.

    Impact of Race on Post-Partum Birth Control Methods – Mom’s Health Experiences Survey Study (WMed IRB #2016-0127) 

    Dr. Bauler is collaborating with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, to examine the impact of race on post-partum birth control methods based on the Mom’s Health Experience Survey results. Based on the results of the survey, the project found a difference in birth control choice between white women and women of color in Kalamazoo county. In addition, women of color experience more barriers that may impact contraception choice. The findings from the project will benefit the community by informing birth control choice and addressing the race-related and socioeconomic disparities seen in infant mortality. 


    STI Treatment & Timing Impact Upon Pregnancy (WMed IRB #2017-0154)  

    Dr. Bauler is currently working to determine the impact of sexually transmitted infections on the birth outcomes of women in Kalamazoo County. The project will examine the impact of various socioeconomic, demographic and health factors in the context of sexually transmitted infections that result in poor birth outcomes. Factors such as the timing of infection before or during pregnancy, co-infections and treatment modalities will be examined to determine their impact on birth outcomes. The goal of the project is to clarify how chlamydia infection may contribute to poor birth outcomes seen in our community. The findings from the project will benefit the community by identifying factors that place women at risk for a poor birth outcome in the context of a chlamydia infection, to inform local healthcare and community efforts to improve birth outcomes.

  • Corbit, Katie, MPH Candidate (WMed)

    Katie Corbit is a Research Associate in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. She is a current MPH candidate in Health Behavior Health Education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Katie’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of community-based participatory research, health disparities in maternal child health, and reproductive justice. Her current research focuses on collective impact partnerships and social networks. 

    Lead Research Projects

    Cradle Kalamazoo Social Network Analysis: Katie with Dr. Cathy Kothari is co-leading the Cradle Kalamazoo Social Network Analysis project which is examining the strength and quality of partnerships within Cradle Kalamazoo. The project will evaluate partnership conditions and relationships within a collective impact initiative. The findings from the project will benefit the community by improving the quality of the collaboration between Cradle Kalamazoo partners. 

  • Damahsek, Amy, PhD (WMU)

    Dr. Amy Damashek is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at Western Michigan University (WMU) and a faculty in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at WMU. Dr. Damashek's research focuses on the prevention of child maltreatment and unintentional childhood injuries, with a focus on supporting at-risk families. Dr. Damashek’s current research focuses on barriers to families’ adherence to safe sleep guidelines as well as the impact of motivational interviewing and culturally competent safe sleep training on home visitors’ ability to effectively communicate and engage clients in safe sleep practices.

    Lead Research Projects 

    Safe Sleep Practices and Sleep-Related Deaths in Kalamazoo - “Evaluation of the Talking About Safe Sleep Training” (WMU IRB# 17-02-08) 

    Dr. Damashek is currently collaborating with Dr. Cheryl Dickson at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine and ERACCE on a project that is investigating the effects of a train the trainer program to expand community providers’ ability to effectively educate other providers and clients about infant safe sleep. The goal of the project is to examine whether the trainings improve community educator’s knowledge about safe sleep, as well as their comfort and confidence in providing safe sleep education to other staff or community parents. The findings of this project will help in developing effective means of disseminating information about safe sleep to the community. This project is funded by the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region. 


    Mother’s Reported Knowledge of, Practices, and Barriers to Engaging in Infant Safe Sleep - Mom’s Health Experiences Survey Study (WMed IRB #2016-0127) 

    Dr. Damashek is collaborating with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, to examine barriers to mothers’ adherence to safe sleep guidelines based on the Mom’s Health Experience Survey results. The goal of the project is to examine practical barriers (e.g., difficulty getting infants to sleep) as well as maternal risk factors (e.g., depression, domestic violence) that make it more difficult for mothers to engage in safe sleep practices with their infants. The findings from this project will provide information about how to more effectively work with caregivers to increase their likelihood of following safe sleep guidelines. 

    Using Focus Groups to Understand Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality (WMU IRB# 15-08-06) 

    Dr. Damashek, in collaboration with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine and Alison Geist, MPH at Kalamazoo College conducted focus groups with community members and health professionals in Kalamazoo.  The goal of the project was to gather perspectives on the causes of infant mortality and ways to reduce racial disparities in infant mortality in Kalamazoo. Findings from the project included that both community members and health professionals highlighted the role of systemic racism in black infant mortality. Specifically, community members expressed some dissatisfaction with their prenatal care experiences ​and the presence of systemic racism that influenced their health care experiences. Health professionals expressed their feelings of shared responsibility in addressing the causes of systemic and multifaceted nature of infant mortality including the role of toxic stress and racism. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 

  • Deibel, Megan Gower, DNP (WMed)

    Megan Gower Deibel, DNP is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, a retired Clinical Assistant Professors in the Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences at University of Michigan School of Nursing, and a retired Certified Nurse Midwife. She received her DNP in Nursing Practice from the University of Michigan. Megan’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of group prenatal care and birth outcomes, fathers’ prenatal engagement mediating birth outcomes, and fathers’ engagement in group prenatal care.

    Lead Research Projects

    Megan’s current project in collaboration with Dr. Cathy Kothari of Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine is examining fatherhood analysis of the Mom’s Health Experience Survey. This project will document the effects of fatherhood and infant mortality. The goal of the project is to identify strengths and gaps of fatherhood participation within pregnant and infant-parenting families. The findings from the project will benefit the community by ultimately improving birth outcomes and the health of newborns. 

  • Dickson, Cheryl, MD, MPH (WMed)

    Dr. Cheryl Dickson, MD, MPH is an Associate Dean of Health Equity & Community Affairs and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. She received her MD and completed her residency in pediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She received her Master of Public Health (MPH) from Columbia University. She is completing a Master of Health Professions Education from the University of Illinois. Dr. Dickson’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of: health disparities, health equity, increasing diversity in health care, Medical Student Education, and Adverse Childhood Experiences/trauma. 

    Lead Research Projects

    Process Mapping Pregnancy Testing and Prenatal Care Referrals Practices Within the Kalamazoo, MI Medical Community (WMed IRB #2018-0301)

    Dr. Dickson is examining the process for women who have a positive pregnancy test into referral for earlier prenatal care at WMed clinics, emergency departments, and the Family Health Center. This project reduces gaps in service and provides clinics and hospitals with opportunities to serve women, particularly high-risk population for infant mortality, earlier. The results from the project survey and structured interviews will be presented to the clinics, hospitals, and the community at large. Additionally, results and the overall referral process will be added to the curriculum for the education of residents.

  • Graves, Lisa, MD (WMed)

    Lisa Graves, MD, is an Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. Dr. Graves is also the Chair of the Health Equity Subcommittee for Cradle Kalamazoo. She received her MD from the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and completed her residency in family medicine and enhanced skills training in maternal and child health at McGill University. Dr. Graves’ research interests fall broadly into the areas of medical education, maternal and child health, and vulnerable populations. Dr. Graves is also involved in additional projects related to preconception care, interconception care, and substance use in pregnancy with external partners.

    Lead Research Projects 

    A Narrative History of Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, Michigan (WMed IRB #2018-0270) 

    Dr. Graves’ project, A Narrative History of Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI is examining the history of safety net agencies and program staff working in the field of infant mortality in Kalamazoo, MI. The goal of the project is to increase the understanding of the implications of various decisions that were made regarding funding, program implementation, or termination over the past 20+ years to better understand decisional effects. 

    Differential Predictors - Using Public Health Data to Examine Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI (WMed IRB #2017-0179) 

    Dr. Graves is collaborating with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, to examine whether variations in infant health by race and by income were associated with different sets of predictors, including maternal demographics, health behaviors, obstetric history, maternal health condition, prenatal care, based on the results of the secondary analysis of infant birth and death records. This project found that Infants of color face different health risks than white infants, across income; risks that vary not just in magnitude, but in the character.  The findings of this project will inform the community on how to approach risk assessment with clinical care and public health interventions; such as patient centered clinical care models. 

    Differential Survival - Using Public Health Data to Examine Infant Mortality in Kalamazoo, MI WMed IRB #2017-0179) 

    Dr. Graves is collaborating with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, to examine whether there are racial or socioeconomic differences in the one-year-survival of poor birth outcomes for infants, controlling for other health contributors, based on the results of the secondary analysis of infant birth and death records. The project found that although racial and socioeconomic disparities are present in the likelihood of a poor birth outcome, these disparities do not persist beyond that time period. The findings of this project will inform the clinical care and public health interventions.

  • Jackson, Yvonne, EdD, MA (WMU)

    Yvonne Jackson, EdD, MA is an Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University in the Department of Physical Therapy. She received her EdD in Teacher Leadership at Walden University. Dr. Jackson earned her educational specialist certification in special education administration, an MA in Sports Administration, and a BS in Physical Therapy from Wayne State University. Dr. Jackson’s academic areas of focus include examination and intervention for pediatric and neuromuscular conditions, as well as clinical education. She plans to continue research in the areas of balance following stroke and traumatic brain injury, development in children with neurological disorders and student remediation.

    Lead Research Projects 

    Dr. Jackson’s current project in collaboration with Dr. Cathy Kothari of Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine and the Mom’s Health Experience Survey. This project will examine if there is a correlation between preterm births or low birth weight babies and physical or cognitive disorders. The outcomes from this project will be used to evaluate the possible need of pediatric physical therapy as it relates to early detection of physical and/or cognitive impairments for preterm and low birthweight babies. The findings from the project will benefit the community by creating changes in systems and new interventions to address the needs of babies with poor birth outcomes.

  • Ospina, Fernando, PhD Student, MA (WMU and ERACCE)

    Fernando Ospina is the Co-Executive Director of ERACCE and a PhD student in Sociology at Western Michigan University. He received his MA in Counseling Psychology and Conflict Resolution from the University of Denver. Fernando’s research interests fall broadly into the incorporation of social determinants of health into health institutions. His current research focuses on the impact of health equity education on perceptions of race as a social construct and health disparities. 

    Lead Research Projects 

    Health Equity Workshop Assessment (Albion IRB F17-04) 

    Fernando’s project, Health Equity Workshop Assessment, in collaboration with Dr. Eric Hill, PhD at Albion College, is examining the effectiveness of an educational intervention designed to change health practitioner behaviors, increase cultural competency, and increase knowledge about the root causes of health disparities. The project will host multiple 7-hour, ERACCE-facilitated, antiracism workshops about health equity and the causes of racial health disparities. The goal of the project is to accurately assess the effectiveness of this educational intervention in order to inform future uses of resources and future interventions. The study explores beliefs about internal vs. external causes of health disparities, just world beliefs, and cultural competence. The findings from the project will benefit the community by providing effective educational opportunities to Cradle Kalamazoo partners and community members.  This project was funded by the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region. 


    Working Title: Race, Experiences of Discrimination, and Medical Encounters – Mom’s Health Experiences Survey Study (WMed IRB #2016-0127) 

    Fernando is collaborating with Dr. Catherine Kothari at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, to examine discrimination experienced during pregnancy based on the Mom’s Health Experience Survey results. The goal of the project is to examine the influence of race and discrimination on medical encounters. The findings from this project will seek to inform future interventions to improve medical encounters among people of color and those who have experienced discrimination. 

  • Wadsworth, Pamela, PhD, WHNP-BC, RN (WMU)

    Pamela Wadsworth, PhD, WHNP-BC, RN, is an Assistant Professor at the Bronson School of Nursing at Western Michigan University. She received her PhD in Nursing and Health Innovation at the Arizona State University. Pamela’s research interests fall broadly into the areas of maternal child health, gendered violence, and the role of nurse practitioners.

    Lead Research Projects 

    Dr. Wadsworth’s current project in collaboration with Dr. Cathy Kothari of Western Michigan Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine is comparing patient factors between physician and nurse midwife care. This project will review patient records for number of prenatal visits, substance use, disclosure of intimate partner violence, and contraception. The outcomes from the project will inform patient care. The findings from the project will benefit the community by improving overall birth outcomes through patient-provider communication and interventions for care.

Population Health Dissemination Team and Projects

As part of our collective impact framework and participatory action research process, Cradle Kalamazoo works directly with community partners to develop, implement, interpret, and disseminate research. Research would not be possible without the support of the various committees and subcommittees of Cradle Kalamazoo, including: the Steering Committee, Governance Board, Health Equity Subcommittee, Home Visitation Subcommittee, Reproductive Health Subcommittee, and Safe Sleep Subcommittee. 

The Population Health Dissemination Team consists of community partners who co-lead projects administered by the Cradle Kalamazoo Research and Data Team. Community partners provide their expertise which increases participation, strengthens validity, enhances overall quality, and builds capacity for both academics and the community within the research process.

  • Bautista, Terra (Healthy Babies Healthy Start)

    Terra Bautista is the Supervisor of Healthy Babies Health Start at Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services. She received her BA from Western Michigan University. Her expertise falls broadly in the areas of direct service, program management, and maternal child health. Her current work focuses on the implementation of home visitation programs that empowering parents and reducing disparities in infant mortality.

  • Bowens, Dionne, MSCJ (Cradle Kalamazoo)

    Dionne Bowens, MSCJ is the Executive Director for Cradle Kalamazoo. She received her Master of Criminal Justice Administration at Ferris State University. Her expertise falls broadly in the areas of program development for community initiatives and youth empowerment. Her current work includes addressing the root causes of health inequities impacting infant mortality.

    Her current project Cradle Kalamazoo Process Metrics is measuring the administrative success of the collective impact initiative, Cradle Kalamazoo. This project is evaluated annually, and the results are presented to the community at the Cradle Kalamazoo Annual Meeting.

  • Huckabee, Martha, MA, MPH (Ascension Borgess)

    Martha Huckabee, MA, MPH is the Director of Operations for Family Medicine and Pediatrics at Ascension Borgress. She received both her MA in Violence Studies, African Studies and Visual Culture and her MPH from Emory University. Martha’s expertise falls broadly in the areas of emergency preparedness and response, international health, and intimate partner violence. Her current work includes engaging with clinical departments to design, implement, and evaluate multi-sited medical programs to serve diverse constituencies.

  • Lane-Davies, Aaron, MD, FAAP (Bronson Methodist Hospital)

    Dr. Aaron Lane-Davies, MD, FAAP is the Chief of Quality for Bronson Medical Group. He received his MD from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and completed a residency in Pediatrics at the Michigan State University Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies. Dr. Lane-Davies’ expertise falls broadly in the areas of improving healthcare quality. His current work includes developing structures, processes, and metrics to increase equity and patient safety.

  • Lenz, Deb, MA (Kalamazoo County)

    Deb Lenz is the Deputy Health Officer for the Kalamazoo County Government. She received her MA in Counseling Education from Western Michigan University. Her expertise falls broadly in the areas of maternal child health and program management. Her current work focuses on public health assessment and assurance particularly in the field of maternal child health.

  • Lubwama, Grace, DPPD, MPH (YWCA Kalamazoo)

    Dr. Grace Lubwama, DPPD, MPH is the CEO of the YWCA Kalamazoo. She received her Doctor of Policy, Planning, and Development from the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. Dr. Lubwama’s expertise falls broadly into the areas of public advocacy, social justice, and community transformation. Her current work focuses on: infant mortality, domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking as public health issues. Specifically, her work examines the key elements of social determinants of health in addressing women’s health and health disparities.

  • Washington, Beth (Bronson Methodist Hospital)

    Beth Washington is Vice President of Community Health, Equity & Inclusion for Bronson Healthcare. Washington is a graduate of Kalamazoo College with degrees in Human Resources and Relations and a secondary teaching certificate in Social Studies and English. Her expertise falls broadly in the areas of expanding health equity practices within organizations by creating environments, mindsets, policies and interventions that enable all people to have full and equal access to opportunities to lead healthy lives. Her current work includes engaging with employees, patients, and families to improve access to medical care and wrap around services that support equitable care delivery.